The Right Choice: The Institute of Art and Ideas

¿Cómo funciona el cerebro a la hora de tomar decisiones? ¿Existen acaso decisiones correctas e incorrectas, o solo puede juzgarse su idoneidad en retrospectiva? ¿Es mejor actuar impulsivamente y preocuparse después o agonizar sopesando todas las opciones?

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Molly Malcolm

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From who to go out with to what to have for lunch, which political party to vote for, to when to speak up! Each one of us makes countless decisions every day. Even not making a decision is, in fact, a choice. Yet despite the practice we get, we often doubt ourselves and feel regret, remorse or resentment when things do not work out as planned. And while we are often told that freedom of choice is a good thing, many of us feel overwhelmed by too many options.  


How to make a good choice has been debated through history. It is often defined as a battle between the thinking mind and the emotions. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato advocated reason over feeling, yet did not explain why a rational decision would necessarily be the right one. Enlightenment philosophers also supported thought, although one of the best-known among them, the Scotsman David Hume, believed that reason is the “slave of the passions.”


Early twentieth century English thinker Bertrand Russell placed emphasis on context: caution is good in all things, he believed, but it is fatal in love! Recent research focuses on an essential relationship between thought and the emotions. Portuguese-American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that people who suffered damage to a specific part of their brain, causing emotions to be inhibited, found it difficult to make any decision at all.   

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